I miss Día De Los Muertos in Tucson. I used to make own headbands. It was an important part of my life in my 30’s.
My grandmother used to clean the graves of loved ones in Nogales, Arizona during this time of year. It wasn’t a concocted affair. It was very authentic to who we were and who we had been going back centuries in Mexico.
As a border kid fed on a diet of American culture, I participated in the intended erasing of who I was and aspiring to be like the American kids I saw in movies and TV. There was no one who looked or acted like us, outside of Stand and Deliver or La Bamba or Selena. And even then, they were approximations. Because border towns might as well be cultural Galapagos. Each unique ecosystems.
But now, I get to decide what I include in my identity. And I get to rediscover all the values, the customs and rituals, and the beliefs of the people who came before me, occultified over the centuries to escape detection.
When I meet a stranger and tell them my name is Veneranda, they are not just meeting me, but they are hearing a name echoed through the centuries through my lineage.
And when they see my face, it is not just me, but all the indigenous ancestors erased from our oral traditions because of the shame associated with “muddied” pasts in the Spanish caste system.
I cannot hide who I am as long as it can be heard in my name and seen on my face. I am me because they were them. And the me I am honors my ancestors today in my own private and personal way. Hopefully they’ll help me to tell the story so I can share what it was to grow up at the confluence of so many cultures.
A toast to them with good tequila. Salud!